Archive for the ‘Yorkville High Street’ Category

Holiday Journal:
Happy New Year!
Saturday, 1 January 2011

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Another year! How they pile up. Or rather, how they melt in the mind, into hosts of memories with puzzlingly different time-stamps. Right after taking in a movie that you think you saw “ages ago,” you had dinner with a friend “just the other day.” And then there are the intense experiences that simultaneously whoosh right by while taking forever. All of 2010 was one such experience for me, and today I celebrate its first anniversary, in the birthday of our grandson Will, who seems to have arrived only yesterday but who has palpably been with us always.

The most important thing that I heard in 2010 was William Gibson’s remark (made more than a few years ago) that the future is already here, but unevenly distributed. That’s another way of saying that, while almost nothing ever really happens, everything is happening all the time. Will is a bit of a baby, and a bit of a young adult, but he is mostly a little boy. The only statement that makes complete sense is also completely tautological: Will is — Will.

As are we all; all of us are more complicated than we can know, even if we could strip away the callouses of inattentiveness and the built-in oblivion that make life bearably uneventful. I can’t tell you how much of me is sitting here writing, how much stuck somewhere in last week’s projects, or how much has shot ahead in pursuit of, among other things, plans for the ongoing development of this of this Web log. All of me that’s present wishes you very hearty good wishes for The Daily Blague / reader. the New Year — and all of me that’s anywhere thanks you for reading.

Gotham Diary:

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

I spent five hours at the Hospital for Special Surgery this afternoon — that’s why I didn’t schedule a Daily Office. That, and my not feeling very well. Owing to nobody’s fault in particular, I was discovering that I can’t quite make it for fourteen weeks between Remicade infusions. Thirteen, yes; but no more. Days into the inadvertent fourteenth week, I was having to think twice before leaving the apartment, because my colon had reverted to its natural, irritable state. I’d run out of Remicade molecules! The last thing I wanted to do was languish in hospital waiting rooms, but I would only feel worse if I gave into that declension. I wanted to stay home because I needed what I’d have to go to the hospital to get.

It’s a very nice hospital, Special Surgery. I’ve certainly never been in a nicer one. That has something to do with the parts of the body that are treated there, bones and their integuments. The limbs that stretch away from the brain and the thoracic organs. No heart disease, no cancer, no emphysema. There may be unimaginable pain and crippling, but it isn’t, for the most part, potentially fatal. There is a sense in which every HSS patient is an athlete on the mend. We’re all getting better — and that’s obviously great for staff morale.

But the hospital also takes advantage of its location. The waiting room for Radiology and the visiting areas for inpatients all overlook the East River. That’s an understatement; they’re on the East River. Which regular readers know is a strait that flows in both directions, depending upon the tide, bearing ships and barges and police cruisers and sailboats and even (idiotic) jet-skis. No matter how bad you may feel, the misery of being shut away in a fluorescent hell isn’t making things worse.

So I felt better the moment I arrived at the hospital, an hour early for my appointment with the rheumatologist (a Facebook friend, by the way) who always looks me over before infusions. When I last saw him, in September, he ordered some X-rays of my cervical vertebrae, just to be sure that carrying my growing grandson around isn’t the reason why I’m suddenly capable of slight nodding: my neck really isn’t supposed to move at all at this point. It was inevitable that I would put off actually having the X-ray until my next visit to the hospital, i.e. today. What wasn’t inevitable was that I’d go to the hospital an hour early because I felt so lousy that I’d just as soon be in a hospital. It was even less foreseeable that I would start feeling better, as I say, as soon as I got there.

From 2:15 until 3, I waited for an X-ray slot. At 3, I put that wait on hold and went upstairs to see the rheumatologist. I was back downstairs by 3:25, and by 3:35 I was sitting in an X-ray room in my undershirt. (It’s cold in New York!) It took a long time to get all the X-rays, because, you see, my neck doesn’t move, and this confounds a lot of everyday technician wisdom. The guy who took my pictures was smart enough to know what he didn’t know, and a whizbang colleague was brought in at one point to kibitz. Radiologists were consulted, as well as the rheumatologist. I was feeling so much better by this point in the afternoon that, frankly, there wasn’t much to distinguish me from Norma Desmond; of course I was difficult. Or, rather, my body was. I myself couldn’t have been more obliging. I held odd positions for long stretches without a whisper of complaint. At one point, my butt was hiked up on a huge triangular ridge of foam, while my mouth roared wide open in silence. “Don’t breathe!” When it was all over, the technician thanked me for being a “good patient.” But of course, Mr De Mille! It was 4:30, time for Remicade.

The nurses at the Infusion Therapy Unit — only one of whom, Sara, was there when I paid my first visit, seven years ago next April — were Doodad’s best friend when it came to cooing over Facebook pictures of Will. Sara herself pronounced Will “one happy little boy.” Earlier, the rheumatologist, who seemed to have all the time in the world to hear about Will’s eager appetite for asparagus and mushroom soup, beamed at me and said, “I don’t know you know you, but I know you well enough not to be surprised that you’re a big softie about your grandson.” I took that as a compliment. Also as a suggestion to lose weight.

At 7:10 — I was so eager to be up and going that I wanted to offer to drink the last few milliliters of Remicade — I dashed out into the night, eager to catch Kathleen on her cell phone; she had just landed in St Louis for an overnight business trip. I got a taxi right away — and why not? New York was going my way. Every hospital stay should be as restorative as mine was today. I could swear that the Remicade is already working.

Housekeeping Note:

Thursday, June 17th, 2010


It’s not so much a matter of running late as it is one of not having run early. Happy Thursday! Meaning that Will and Megan are here, and we aren’t planning to spend much time online. Ought to that about that last night, right? But we went to the theatre and saw a rather exhausting (if awfully well-done) play about a broken upper-middle-class English family. This required a long restorative dinner, after which there was nothing for it but to go to bed. Up first thing this morning to unpack the Pack ‘n’ Play.

But we did get the Book Review covered yesterday. Can you believe that we’re still doing that? This is the sixth summer. Ha!

More anon, we promise.

Housekeeping Note:

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010


We’re running a little late this morning: we are pooped. Specificially, HTML-pooped. We launched a new site yesterday, Civil Pleasures, the “tablet edition” of Portico, our ten year-old Web site. Fiddling obsessionally with details — endlessly re-adjusting the style sheet; resizing logo images (no longer dependent upon your computer’s library of typefaces are we!); concocting precious inaugural copy — this sort of thing can be very amusing (although not at all funny) once you decide that you can’t put the dirty work off for another day, but we are, ahem, ten years older than we were when were struggling to make Portico as complicated as we thought it ought to be — and we are trying to keep things simple this time. That’s why we’re pooped.

We’ve linked to Civil Pleasures not because we want to show off the new site — designed to look good on an iPad, it looks terrible on a conventional monitor —but because we’re too tired to cross-post last night’s diary entry, which features a screenshot from Google Maps of a building that nobody but John D Rockefeller Jr would have called a “playhouse.”

Dear Diary:
State Visitor

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010


Here we were, snowbound. I had canceled an outpatient skin surgery, and Kathleen had decided to work from home. So we were both here even though, according to the calendar, neither one of us ought to have been. When I learned that Megan and Will were, against all the weather odds, out and about, I asked my daughter to make our house her next stop, and she did. Thus did Will O’Neill pay his first visit to his maternal grandparents, at the ripe old age of not-quite-six weeks.

Nana Penny made it all possible. Of all of us on Megan’s side of the family, Penny is the only one whose experience with infants is better than theoretical. (Given that Megan is not far from forty, I hope that I’ll be excused for having forgotten what little experience of babies I have that hasn’t been superseded by no-smoking regulations.) She burped him into contentment after his second feeding, which was not preceded by sleep of any kind.

As I say, he’s an intellectual. Megan says, “We’ll see.” I say that I’m not talking about the future. He’s an intellectual now. Which is not at all inconsistent with his loving his Texas boots.

Mostest Note:

Sunday, January 17th, 2010


Yesterday’s brunch was perfect, simply because it was exactly what I intended it to be. I’m talking about the food part, the part for which I, and I alone, was responsible. Because it was exactly what I wanted it to be, I had a great time talking with my friends. Indeed, I was at the table, without more than momentary interruption, for seven hours. And so were most of them.  

Because Quatorze was sick [sicker than he dreamed, he found out in the morning, when he went to the doctor — although still ambulatory] there were only five of us at the table. In these early days of adult entertainment, I aim no higher than for six, but I do look forward to planning for eight. This evening’s five, though, was very jolly. Kathleen, although exhausted, was in great spirits. As was everyone else. That was the aspect of the occasion that I can’t really plan for. In addition to Fossil, we had an old friend of his who is rapidly becoming an old friend of ours, and, vice versa, a law school classmate of ours whom Fossil wishes he were young enough to run off with. These two old friends became good friends on the spot, or so it seemed. As I say, I can’t plan for that; I can  but hope. For me, the ideal dinner party makes fast friends of at least two complete strangers. All I do is set the stage.

The menu was, for the most part, startlingly unabitious:

Tomato Soup
Lobster Salad
Dilled Blanquette de Veau
Pots de Crème au chocolat.

The lobster salad was the exception. It was an invention, and it was the only dish that wasn’t prepared well in advance. I wanted something light and lobster-sweet. I murdered and cut up a two-pound lobster, wrapped it up, and slipped it into the fridge. Then, when it was time to compose, I sliced the tail into medallions and cut up the claws. I shucked three ears of corn and sautéed the kernels in butter. I minced a seedless cucumber. These ingredients got tossed in one bowl. In another, I combined three small heads of frisée, two Belgian endives, and one medium head of radicchio, all cut up nicely. Then I made a dressing of fresh tarragon (bushels, it seemed), raspberry vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, and safflower oil (with a dollop of walnut oil). Oh, and a jolt of honey.  I didn’t measure anything, but I thought very hard about each ingredient as I added it to the bowl of the small food processor, and because I am a very old man who has been doing this sort of thing since before you were born, it came out just right. At the last minute, the greens were tossed with a sparing amount of dressing, and tonged to plates; the lobster-corn-cucumber mixture was dressed rather more substantially, and scooped atop the cabbages; and, finally, a lobster medallion was placed atop each pile, spooned over with a bit of dressing and a dash of retro paprika. At wash-up time, I was gratified by the generally clean plates.

The old friend of Fossil’s who is becoming an old friend of ours brought a tin of home-made chocolate-chip meringue cookies, and I tucked two at the base of each pot de crème. I was so collected that I even made a pot of coffee without feeling fussed.

I was ready for my guests to arrive a full forty minutes before anybody showed up. That is as it should be. That is how it used to be with me. I’d spend at least twenty minutes wallowing in the certitude that nobody liked me and that nobody would come to my party. Then I got to be rather a slob, occasionally waiting to dress until after everyone had arrived. Those days are over.

Weekend Open Thread:
Make My Day

Saturday, January 16th, 2010


Library Note:

Sunday, January 10th, 2010


In the din of chit-chat and prognostication about digital book readers and whatnot, the idea of the library seems to have been drowned out. Technically, of course, the library will go digital along with its constituent texts, and occupy no visible space. A superb prospect! If someone offered me the contents of several major research libraries on a handful of flash drives, I’d be as giddy as a schoolboy.

The idea of the book as a disembodied object that appears only when needed is tremendously appealing. It would be wonderful if my bodied books would appear when needed! The other night, it’s true, I got very lucky: when the conversation turned to Savonarola, I was able to produce Lauro Martines’s book on the subject, Fire in the City. More typical, sadly, was the search for Marsha Colish’s Medieval Foundations of the Western Intellectual Tradition. The Readerware file — I was still using Readerware at the time — pointed me to a shelf that did not exist. I tore apart the history bookcase, but to no avail. It turned out that I had let M le Neveu borrow the book, and surrendered to the nutty idea that a nonexistent shelf would indicate that the book was out on loan. It was thanks only to a spot of housecleaning at his end that I put my hands on Professor Colish.

A new way of cataloguing my library occurred to me the other day: I would simply take snapshots of the ranges of books. Most of my shelves hold two rows of books, one behind the other; the block of shelves in the photo above holds three. Hence “tearing apart.” A loose-leaf notebook full of digital images of arrayed spines would be the only catalogue that I’d need, and it would take very little time to update. If I were younger, I’d probably give this notion a try, but my more experienced self thinks that it’s suspiciously easy-sounding. I don’t know what’s wrong with the idea, really, but I’m sure that there’s something — and I know that I would feel an everloving fool when I found out what it was.

The other day, Joe Jervis remarked in passing that he has never been one to amass books in order to show off his reading. Horrified, I wondered if (a) that’s what my library is all about and (b) that’s how my library strikes other people. The first doubt was easily dealt with, because I’m very unimpressed by my library, and would not think much of anyone who regarded it as extensive. For me, an impressive library is a room all four walls of which are lined with bookshelves that reach at least from hip height to the ceiling. As for what other people think, I had to admit that I’m showing off. Subject, however, to the foregoing caveat: only rubes fall for it. This is simply how the well-fed urban ego behaves.

As I toiled over piles of books this afternoon, I asked myself more than once: why do I have all these books? If it weren’t for periodic bouts of re-shelving, would I ever have occasion to touch them? It’s all very well to produce a book about Savonarola on demand, but it’s also true that nobody dropped out of the dinner-party conversation in order to read it. You could say that I demonstrated the book’s existence. As I could with somewhere between two and three thousand other volumes. Pourquoi?

I have never lived without books, but I suspect that, without the daily reminder posted by those serried dust jackets, I might forget an important part of myself — to wit, where I’ve been in this life. I’ve spent so much of it reading!

Fossil Darling, who likes to dream, promised me the other day that, if and when he wins the lottery, he will set me up in a loft vast enough to house all of my books. Quatorze frowned: “RJ doesn’t want to live in a loft.” Quite right, Q! If money were no object, I’d take a suite at one of the grand hotels and survive on room service. With room service, I wouldn’t need a library. I’d just have books sent up.

As needed.

Weekend Update:
No More Microwave

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010


Somewhere between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, I realized that I was using the microwave oven for three things: reheating mugs of tea, scalding milk for béchamel, and I forget the third thing. This realization came at about the same time as my decision to stop zapping tea. There’s nothing wrong with reheating tea in a microwave, I suppose; but (long story short) I was tired of having to turn off the dishwasher every time I refilled my mug. Since the dishwasher is almost always on (its cycle can run for as long as two hours), and I am almost always refilling my mug — and because it wasn’t exactly unusual for me to forget to turn the dishwasher back on — you can see how the conflict got to be tiresome.

I bought a stainless steel kettle at Feldman’s and kept it on a flame tamer over the stove’s lowest setting. (Now I pour steeped tea directly into it, without troubling a fréquentable teapot.) As for the milk-scalding, I also bought, and also at Feldman’s, a stainless steel pan that is really an overgrown measuring cup. It holds a pint, but although it is honest it is not substantial: scalding milk is what it seems to have been designed to do.

Now that I didn’t need the microwave oven for anything (except that third thing, which I couldn’t remember), I woke up to the fact that there are toaster ovens so big that they are not toaster ovens anymore, but real ovens. And I really needed a second conventional oven. I was probably never going to have a second wall-mounted oven in this kitchen, but now I saw my way around that. 

Why doI need a second oven? To serve dinner rolls alongside a roast chicken. To serve a savory soufflé before a roast chicken. To bake frozen croissants for breakfast, at 350º, while cooking bacon in the best of all possible ways, in a 400º oven. The list is not endless, or even particularly long, but if I was tired of forgetting to turn the dishwasher back on after reheating a mug of tea, I was a hundred times more tired of not being able to plan certain menus because I had only one oven.

Early in life, I was told that gas ovens (such as the one built into my kitchen wall) are best for roasting meat, and that electric ovens are preferred for baking breads and cakes. Whether this is true or not, I think it’s true. Even so, I’ll probably continue to bake banana bread in the gas oven. It’s cheaper, for one thing; we pay for electricity but not for gas. And even if we paid for gas, it would probably still be cheaper. But after I’d replaced the microwave with the unit shown above, yesterday afternoon, a loaf of banana bread seemed to be the perfect choice for a shakedown cruise. Truth to tell, I was quite a bit more surprised that the oven worked, and that the banana bread tasted as good as it did, than I was that my grandson was born with all his fingers and toes &c the day before. Thjs may be because I was far more directly involved with the installation of the new oven.

The microwave oven turned out to be a never-entirely-satisfactory convenience. Like many cooks of my vintage, I gave Barbara Kafka’s Microwave Gourmet a college try, going so far as to buy one of those peculiar porcelain platters with metal studs that were supposed to facilitate the browning of meat (wasn’t that what they were for?). For six months or so, I had a crush on the idea of baking potatoes in eleven minutes. Most seriously, I made extensive use, over several years, of Bread in Half the Time.

But now that I don’t spend so much time in the kitchen, I’m less interested in saving time when I do. The mircrowave oven may be an appliance with a great future, but for the moment I’m going to store it in the past, to be pulled out now and then only for the odd comparison to Twitter, which sometimes seems also to be an appliance that I can’t find a place for.

I would never have gotten rid of the microwave oven just for the sake of it. But I’m pleased by the residual buzz of having disposed of the object of Julia Child’s sweetly disingenuous dismissal:

Microwaving. I wouldn’t be without my microwave oven, but I rarely use it for real cooking. I like having complete control over my food — I want to turn it, smell it, poke it, stir it about, and hover over its every state. Although the microwave does not let me participate fully, I do love it for rewarming, defrosting, and sometimes for starting up or finishing off. However, I know how popular microwave ovens have become and that many people adore them. I’m delighted to see, therefore, a growing number of excellent books on the subject available in supermarkets and bookstores.

The third thing was nachos. Which I need like a hole in the head. Something tells me that the new oven is going to make much better ones.

Housekeeping Note:
Vacation, continued

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010


At the beginning of last week, I decided that two weeks’ vacation was not enough, so I went back and changed an entry that nobody is ever going to look at again (the Daily Office for 18 December), and changed “4” into “11.”

There have been moments when a years’ vacation seemed not too much. So much was left behind last year as I came to grips with the roaring torrent of feeds that floods my Google Reader page as quickly as I can scan them. I do hope to write more about reading in 2010 — and to read more to write about. Nevertheless, barring the unforeseen, the Daily Office will reappear on the 11th.

Happy, Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1st, 2010


Portrait of The Editor holding his grandson, William Aidan O’Neill, born earlier today. During a blue moon!

It has been years and years since I last held a newborn child, and my arms — so much of them, so little of Will — needed a bit of re-adjustment, provided by his mother. Once properly arranged, we stood for twenty minutes or more, while Megan and Kathleen chatted. I worried a little bit about crushing him, but what really terrified me was the possibility that he might suddenly stop breathing. (Then he would twist a part of himself, and I’d breathe.)

According to Kathleen, Will does not look like a newborn. I don’t think he does, either. But he can squinch up his face in that wizened, little-old-gnome way, reminding us that there is nothing generic about him: he’s his own man already. (It isn’t the blanket that’s covering his face, below. Those are his sleeves.)


About becoming a grandfather, I can say only that it feels utterly normal: attending to this boy (and to any siblings who come along) is evidently something that I have been waiting to do all my life. In completing my adulthood, it concludes my adolescence. May Will make better use of youth than I did; and may I make as good a greybeard as my health and talent allow.


Weekend Update:

Sunday, December 13th, 2009


Here’s how I knew that it was good brunch: I did not ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” Instead, I was thinking of ways in which I could have managed better. A very good sign.

There were seven of us at the table, and only Kathleen and I knew everybody beforehand. I have come to see that, ideally, this would always be the case. When I was young, and reading Proust for the first time, I thought that it would be the coolest thing in the world to have a salon. On a certain day of the week, or (more realistically) the month, one’s coterie would drop by en masse. This despite Proust’s consistently unflatting portrait of Mme Verdurin and her circle. But what did I know of “entertaining”? I knew my parents’ cocktail parties, that’s what. The same people showed up at them for years, yet I still yearned for a salon of regulars. I must have thought that, by substituting tea for whiskey, my shindigs would inspire the kind of lofty conversation that would have made my parents’ friends take flight.

At the end of dessert — we would continue sitting at table for another hour — I thanked the friend to my left for having been such a lovely guinea pig. I rather regret this now; it seems an ungracious thing to say to anyone. But in almost every detail the brunch was a mission. I wanted to know how to fit giving a weekend luncheon party into the texture of regular life, more or less as I make dinner for Kathleen and myself on school nights. A lot remains to be learned, but even though I’m tired and somewhat afflicted by Sunday night blahs, I don’t look back on this afternoon’s meal as a big deal that completely disrupted the weekend.

The important thing is to try to make friends happy to be in my home. This involves good company and good food, served with as little fuss as possible. It may have seemed like fussing when I asked everyone to leave the table after the main dish, so that I could tidy it up for coffee and cake, but everybody went right on talking, which, at least among my friends, never gets in the way of eating.

The entrée was a chicken dish from Gourmet, circa 1993. I haven’t written it up at Portico but will try to change that. It’s an “oven-friend” dish — a  genre that excites skepticism as a rule — that is in fact far more suitable for a winter luncheon, at a properly-set table, than the real thing would be. It’s quite piquant; there’s a lot of cayenne pepper.

I discovered that the fish poacher is an ideal vessel for marinating two cut-up chickens.

The side dishes were seriously retro: a German potato salad, made according to a recipe from the original New York Times Cookbook (1961), and an aspic of bouillon and V-8, with minced green onions floating obscurely in the ring. We began with a fruit salad and muffins, and ended with a mocha-rum cake (I make it with Jack Daniels) that also came from an Early-Nineties issue of Gourmet. The fruit salad came from Gristedes, but in chunks too large to serve without a knife; it took ten minutes to render them bite-sized. The muffins were flavored, dimly, by the Calvados in which I plumped some raisins. I had wanted to make cinnamon rolls, but yeast bread would have taken more time than I had allotted.

There would have been more time to play with if I’d really known what I was doing, the way I know how to prepare a roast chicken dinner. I knew how to cook each dish on the menu, but not how to cook them all on the same menu, which is really the final lesson of giving dinners, including as it does knowing where to put the special plates that you want to use for dessert until it’s time to use them. All in all, I did pretty well, but I want to get better. I want to have it down to the sweet spot of habit. I know that I’ll never be bored so long as friends old and new are kind enough to venture into darkest Yorkville for a seat at my table.   

Have A Look:

Friday, November 20th, 2009


Whoa! Our 30th law school reunion takes place next year. It’s unlikely that we’ll go, what with one thing and another. Not that we don’t love reunions — when they take place in Manhattan! We do, after all, live in the center of the universe! Perversely, however, we went to law school within the ambit of the one town on earth (a windy, lakeside locale) that refuses to acknowledge the self-evident truth of the matter.

Our class secretary (a judge!) sent this montage out the other day, by way of dire warning. I share it with you because I photographed at least six of the eleven images, and may have taken two others. Can you tell which ones?

I know that it was supposed to be law school, but, gawd, I had fun!

Weekend Update :
Flowers on the Floor

Saturday, October 31st, 2009


Although no one has asked, I know that you’re all dying for a look at the new rug. That’s the sort of intuition to which may brain has been reduced by this month of low-key, low-budget (but not, in the aggregate, inexpensive!) domestic upgrade.

As I wrote (in gratitude) to Quatorze last night, every time I walk into the bedroom, I want to drop to my knees and say a decade of the Rosary.


We began shortly after eleven, and finished at about two-fifteen. By the time Quatorze arrived, I had emptied the room of most small things — the desk chair, the hamper, the old tea table — leaving only the nightstands and the bed to contend with. I had warned Quatorze that we might have to empty the tall bookcase in which Kathleen keeps her collection of old children’s books and her accumulation of books on knitting, needlepoint, and beading; and I was glad that I did, because it would have been an unpleasant surprise indeed to find that this was so. In the event, foresight made the task bearable. By then, we had lifted the massive mattress off to one side, stood the box spring alongside it, and carefully tilted the bed frame — long ago bolted together — so as not to put too much torque on the two supporting legs. We had then rolled out the padding and then the rug (bear in mind, please, that Quatorze was a good 80% of “we”) and replaced the bed.

So now we had only to remove the books from the shelf (carefully, so that they’d be easy to re-shelve), carry the bookcase around the bed, finish rolling out the padding and the carpet, and replace the bookcase and finally the books. A lot of vacuuming and dusting was done along the way; we really ought to have been wearing surgical masks. Once the desk was back in place — it’s much heavier than it looks to be — I decided that we ought to break for lunch.

Afterward, Quatorze came back to the flat and re-hung some pictures in the living room. The paintings over the newly re-upholstered love seat, which has a somewhat higher back than the sofa that it replaced, were “driving me crazy,” he said. At about five o’clock, declaring that he would be burning his clothes, Quatorze left for home, and I went back to the bedroom for a few hours of Putting Things Back. When everything else was tidy, I made the bed.

And that was that! It was deliberate and methodical, if I may indulge in surplusage. “Deliberate and methodical” is Quatorze’s normal setting, but it isn’t mine; what came to my aid was an extended fatigue that has crushed my habitual impatience. I had neither the energy nor the snap to get cute. I plodded along tortugously. Eventually, it was all done. 

Daily Office:

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009


Matins: Confidence in the once-almighty dollar is eroding. This could be a very good thing, in many ways, if it weren’t for those pesky Treasury Bills.

Lauds: On the strength of Ken Tanaka’s write-up, we’ve just ordered a copy of On City Streets: Chicago, 1964-2004, by “unknown” photographer Gary Stochl.

Prime: The subprime movie crisis: surprise, surprise, easy money left Hollywood unprepared for a very dry season. (via Arts Journal)

Tierce: Jason Dean’s very snazzy ABCs of Branding.

Sext: Box wines: nothing to sniff at.  (via Felix Salmon)

Nones: The Honduran attempt at a bloodless coup is getting bloody — thanks to the return of the coupé.

Vespers: Patrick Kurp waits, along with Phyllis McGinley, for “The 5:32.”

Compline: Coming soon to the Internet: FTC disclosure rules.


Daily Office:

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009


Matins: In an important editorial, the Times argues that corporations ought not to have the same set of constitutional rights as human beings.

Lauds: At The Best Part, four terrific photographs that William Eggleston did not take — but clearly inspired John Johnston to take.

Prime: The Netflix Prize — a million dollars to whomever improves the performance of its Cinematch engine by ten percent — is not really about the money.

Tierce: Devin Friedman decides to have more black friends, runs ad in Craiglist… the beginning of quite the project. “Will you be my black friend?“, at GQ.

Sext: Three things that V X Sterne would rather chat about than “So, What Do You Do?

Nones: In what seems like a turn from Il Trovatore, ousted Honduras president Manuel Zelaya steals back into Tegucigalpa, where he takes refuge at the Brazilian Embassy.

Vespers: Alan Gopnik reviews Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol — but not in the back of the book. As the lead Talk piece instead. Ho-ho-ho.

Compline: Nige takes the week off, bumps around Norfolk with an old friend, and visits a famous French cathedral. We are so living on the wrong continent.


Housekeeping Note:
Cross Purposes

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009


As a reward of sorts, my Red Letter Day (yesterday) was concluded by an outage at this site’s server. I don’t mean to sound too ironic; I really did make the most of the setback.

Having revived the habit of copying all work to the clipboard before attempting to save it in cloudland, I did not lose the diary entry, and so was able to post it, complete with banner, at Portico, where a re-think of the opening page, previously headed “Vestibule,” had not made much progress. I’m going to try to make another habit of cross-posting diary entries at both places, with the hope that dear readers will make a note of the Portico address. Portico is housed at an entirely server, so it’s very unlikely that The Daily Blague and Portico will be unavailable at the same time.

You will find Portico at www.

Daily Office:

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009


Matins: At Coming Anarchy, the entry “Microstate Madness” describes potential breakaway statelets across Europe, from Sardegna to Scotland. (via Joe.My.God)

Lauds: Now that the bubbling (not to say gaseous) wake of the Venice Biennale has subsided into the barcarolle of the canals, Barry Schwabsky’s lucid report, “Hubbub and Stillness,” in The Nation, is an even greater pleasure to read.

Prime: Variation on an old Chinese curse: business narratives have become (Titanically) interesting.

Tierce: What if the Marshall case veers from incompetence to duress? It’s just as bad.

Sext: How TV news would cover a first moon landing today.

Nones: Honduran would-be president (the only kind, these days) Manuel Zelaya might well take a look at what his opponents are afraid of, as it plays out in Venezuela’s Barinas State.

Vespers: At Intelligent Life, Tom Shone inquires:  Is sobriety good for literary types? (via The Morning News)

Compline: Boudicca Downes discusses her parents’ decision — somewhat more controversial in the case of her conductor father, Sir Edward — to take their lives at Dignitas, a clinic in Switzerland.


Housekeeping Note:

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009


Last week’s Blidgets, meet this week’s Tweets. Thanks to Steve Laico, of Searchlight Consulting, for both developments, which make The Daily Blague’s sidebars truly dynamic. That’s to say that they change because other things change.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s implementation that matters — and, without Steve, you wouldn’t be reading my great ideas, and deciding that, well, maybe, they’re not that great. With all due &c.

In any case, I offer the ideas in the Aviary to anyone who wants to run with them. Don’t think I’m being generous; if you can’t copyright a recipe, you can’t protect a naked little undeveloped idea, either. But perhaps someone else can.

Weekend Update (Sunday Edition):
Sur le balcon

Sunday, May 31st, 2009


Rather late this year, but never more sweepingly, I whipped the balcony into shape over the weekend. No monumental cleaning was required; just a bit of potting. I have finally accepted the impossibility, for reasons unknown, of building a perennial garden on our balcony. (I suspect that emissions from the trucks on First and Second Avenues poses a long-term insult, at least to the potting soil.) I ran the knickknacks on the hutch through the dishwasher, and wiped down the marble ice-cream table, and that was that. Or rather, that would have been that if I had not been on a stuff-ridding rampage.

There used to be five very large tubs of dirt; now there are two. There used to be a stock of empty clay pots. Now there are two empty clay pots, and they’re going to be filled with ivy the next time I make it down the street to Nicky’s. there used to be a stack of old (and very dirty) baskets. Those have been tossed, along with the hamper that housed a friteuse that I no longer use. There used to be a Blue Italian teapot that I had repaired and repurposed as a planter. Gone. A neat halogen lamp that we had gotten our use out of. Gone, gone, gone. It was immensely satisfying.

(The hutch was Kathleen’s idea: she had it built at Gothic Cabinet Craft (maker of everybody’s starter bookshelves in this part of town), thinking that it would be nice to look at from our bed — as indeed it is. It’s a bit the worse for wear, having spent six or seven (or more?) years out in the elements, but it hasn’t lost a whit of its charm. On a rare weekend, Kathleen spends hours in the wicker armchair, knitting or poring over catalogues. On a good day, it’s as nice as a cruise ship — a statement that I make in perfect ignorance of conditions aboard cruise ships.)

(The quaint bricks are actually a very durable plastic, installed by me shortly after the hutch arrived (it wouldn’t have been before — oh, no). They’re hollow and about two inches deep, so the step down from the living room isn’t what it used to be, and rainfall puddles out of sight.)

Ms NOLA came to dinner last night, and we celebrated happy developments in her career. Dinner was not especially complicated, but we sat at the table until just past eleven. I had already chosen links for tomorrow’s Daily Office, and I thought that writing them up would be a breeze. Ahem: Not after the bibulous evening, they weren’t. (Sancerre, Gigondas, Perrier-Jouet) Oh, no. I could hardly read the html page of the WordPress interface, and any wit conferred by Bacchus appeared to have evaporated — cooked off, as it were. I clawed my way to bed the moment the entry was finished.

I was asked what I’m reading. What I’m reading! An interesting idea — reading. I really ought to give reading a try. All I have to do is to stop writing. It’s too bad that I seem to be stuck in a tedious adaptation of a classic British film, called (in my case) The Red Keyboard.